Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Suggests Possible Return Of Sam Altman To OpenAI


In a recent series of interviews on CNBC and Bloomberg TV, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella revealed that there is a possibility for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI in some capacity. This statement comes after Altman was fired from his position as CEO at OpenAI by the company’s board of directors on Friday.

Key Takeaway

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella suggests that Sam Altman may still return to OpenAI despite his intention to join a newly-formed AI research team at Microsoft. Nadella highlights the importance of finding a suitable home for Altman and expresses openness to both options. Microsoft also seeks changes in OpenAI’s governance, particularly regarding investor relations. OpenAI employees are in widespread revolt, with over 700 employees signing a letter calling for the board’s resignation and that Altman be reinstated. The situation remains uncertain, with Emmett Shear appointed as the new CEO and plans to hire an independent investigator to examine Altman’s termination process.

Despite Altman’s announcement earlier today that he intended to join a newly-formed AI research team at Microsoft alongside ex-OpenAI president Greg Brockman and several former OpenAI researchers, Nadella expressed his desire for Altman to find a “fantastic home” in case he doesn’t return to OpenAI.

In the interview on CNBC, Nadella stated, “That’s for, you know, [the] OpenAI board and management and the employees to choose … [Microsoft] chose to explicitly partner with OpenAI [and] obviously that depends on the people at OpenAI staying there or coming to Microsoft, so I’m open to both options.”

Nadella’s comments align with previous reporting from The Verge, which suggested that Altman’s move to Microsoft was not yet finalized. The reported change of heart from OpenAI’s chief scientist, Ilya Sutskever, may play a role in Altman’s potential return. It was also mentioned that only two out of the three remaining board members need to agree in order to bring Altman back. Altman formerly held the sixth seat on the board, and Brockman was recently removed as the board’s chairman.

Nadella further emphasized that Microsoft would like to see changes in the governance of OpenAI, particularly regarding investor relations. Currently, OpenAI, a nonprofit organization to which the board belongs, is governed by a board without investor representation. Microsoft, being one of the significant investors in OpenAI with over $10 billion of investment to date, aims to initiate a dialogue with the board to address these concerns.

Regarding the recent events at OpenAI, the situation has been tumultuous since Altman’s firing. OpenAI’s management team and backers started vetting potential candidates to replace the board in anticipation of Altman’s possible return. Simultaneously, the board conducted its own search for a new CEO and eventually settled on Emmett Shear, the co-founder of Twitch, after other candidates declined the offers.

However, Shear’s appointment met with internal controversy, as employees reportedly refused to attend an emergency all-hands meeting scheduled with him and responded with negative sentiments in OpenAI’s Slack channel. OpenAI’s rank-and-file, including chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, signed a letter calling for the resignation of the board and the reinstatement of Altman. Salesforce even saw an opportunity to recruit disgruntled OpenAI employees, offering matching compensation to researchers who chose to join their AI research team.

To address the lack of transparency surrounding Altman’s termination, Shear has announced his intention to hire an independent investigator to review the entire process leading up to the decision and generate a full report.

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